On Wednesday 18 March 2020, Headstone Manor & Museum closed its doors to the public. Volunteers and all staff were informed to work from home. When public engagement is at the heart of our work, closing to the public for what may be a long time, was inconceivable. However, in Harrow, the wheel for arts and culture, kept spinning albeit, virtually! Each team member has had to embrace new ways of working so we can reach out to both existing and new audiences. We engaged with new initiatives and activities to ensure everyone, can still experience Headstone Manor, from home!
As Curator, working away from our collections was peculiar at first. Nevertheless, I soon realised this period we are living and working in right now is a historic event in itself – one that needs capturing for future generations. Harrow’s people and places at present are playing a huge part in this pandemic, whether it is through community voluntary initiatives, key workers on the front line or parents’ home schooling their children. Each single person, living or working in Harrow has been affected by COVID-19 and as a Museum, we have a duty to listen to people’s stories, record them and preserve them for future generations. This is why I launched the #COVIDINHARROW contemporary collecting project.
We did an open call for the people of Harrow to send in their stories to us over email or social media. Right now, we can only collect digital material, but we hope once we return, we can collect physical material too. This can be anything from digital artworks, photographs, poems, letters, videos, or social media posts. We have had a few submissions already that I would like to share. There is no deadline for the open-call out, as I realised the affects of COVID-19 will be with us for a long, long time.
The submissions so far have revealed an intimate window in the lives of people working and living in Harrow. There have been some enlightening stories of community spirit from groups like For the Love of Scrubs. This group of volunteers have been producing gowns for key workers, including staff at Northwick Park Hospital. Made from donated materials, one of them was made from a teenager’s Star Wars duvet covers! The team have received nationwide press as a result of their collective efforts. As well as sharing their story with us, they have sent in photographs and, they will also donate some of the gowns they have created. We are very grateful to FTLOS for sharing their story with us – fantastic work! To find out more about FTLOS click here
One of our favourite stories is from Gaurav who shared photographs with us of his socially distance street party in Pinner. In addition to the clap for carers, residents on Gaurav’s street partied together on their individual drives, at a safe distance – what a fantastic idea! Young and old residents from diverse backgrounds came together to say thank you to key workers but also let their lockdown-hair down as a community. We hope to join in one of their community street parties once the lockdown is over – at a safe distance of course!
A story that really stood out to us was from The Maloneys. The couple were about to move out of their house in Harrow to a new home the same week lockdown was announced – can you imagine? The had their removal company cancel on them and then due to the virus, they were unable to stay with their elderly Mother, as they had planned to stay there whilst they did up their new house. Luckily, they found a place to store their boxes while they slept in their new house on mattresses on the floor! We’re so glad they we’re able to share this story with us as well as photographs! After weeks of cleaning, I believe they are settled into their house and celebrated Mr Maloney’s 73rd birthday too – we wish them well!
These are only a few selected stories for this first blog but before I end, I will share one last photograph submission with you, from Anjali who shared this stunning image of a rainbow over Northwick Park Hospital, the featured image for this blog post. He says:
“Here are the pictures I clicked from my balcony today evening around 7:45. It was surreal and so beautiful as we were just getting ready with my girls to go out and clap for NHS. Just so awesome that it was kind of above Northwick Park hospital as well!
My message was simple – ‘NHS is the true embodiment of ‘service before self’ and even Mother Nature is making rainbows in its honour’ “
If you have a story to share with us please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.